A Day in the Life….

…of a Writer.

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My name is Christine Campbell, and I am a writer.

There, I’ve said it.

I said it and believed it for the first time after I published my debut novel in 2008.

There can be few things more validating for a new writer than to hold years of hard work in your hands. Feel the paper smooth on your fingers. The weight of your very own book, the smell of it, the sound of pages as you run your thumb over their edge, letting them flip one against the other. The sight of the words you penned months before, tumbling over one another to fill hundreds of pages, painting the pictures from your imagination in words and letters, to tell your story.

It’s intoxicating.

But how did it come to that point?

What does a writer’s day look like?

For me, the day probably looked a lot like anyone else’s.

I had a husband, a family, responsibilities.

Writing was what I did in secret, what I did in snatches, in corners, in cafés. Not because I was ashamed of what I did. Not because my husband didn’t encourage and support me. Only because I didn’t believe I was a Writer with a capital W.

Then ‘Family Matters’ was published and I held in my hands the evidence that I was.

I am a Writer.

My days look different now.

Brazen, I sit at my computer while the dishes sit by the sink. My fingers fly across the keys making that special music of storytellers, while the washing churns in the machine. Dinners are simple affairs the days I’m writing well, more elaborate when I have thinking to be done. As I chop the carrots, I set out plot points in my head. As I brown the meat, my head fills with neatly turned phrases and enticing story twists.

If you pass me in the supermarket and I don’t seem to see you, I probably don’t. I’m somewhere else, in the world my characters inhabit, doing something else altogether. If I didn’t rouse myself occasionally to check my shopping list, goodness knows what I’d remember to pop in my trolley for tonight’s dinner. Whatever my protagonist fancies, I suppose.

Hours can pass and I think it’s a moment since I sat down to write.

A day in the life of a writer doesn’t look so very different from a distance. On closer inspection, it belongs to a different world, a different time capsule.

My family are grown now, and my long-suffering husband smiles at my passion and shares the washing-up. The washing gets done, the beds get made, no-one is neglected. But time is set aside to write, to edit, to think, to plan, to research.

It’s what I do.

I am a Writer.

~~~

Getting the Most from your Writers’ Retreat

You’ve gathered a few writing buddies together and you’ve booked a cottage in the country, you’re all set to try your hand at creating a Writers’ Retreat. So, how are you going to get the maximum benefit from it while putting the minimum time into planning it? Because, let’s face it, we’re writers.

We want to write.

Not spend hours and hours organising ourselves to write.

Do have a meeting or a virtual meeting before you go, to decide the main things in advance.

My friends and I have tried different approaches and each time we have gone away for a week, we have structured it a little differently so perhaps the most helpful thing for me to do would be to tell you some of the things that work well, not necessarily the things we have done.

One of the things to remember is, although you are going to your retreat to write, you will also need to eat, so planning a rough menu beforehand is worth considering. Shopping for that menu can be done in advance if you have room in the car for the shopping. Failing that, perhaps locate the nearest supermarket to you cottage and, after you unload the car, you can go back out for a shopping trip.

This is where the planning meeting is useful. You can decide things like:

Will you share the cooking, perhaps on a daily rota? Or will everyone fend for themselves?

Will you share the shopping or will one of you volunteer to bring the supplies to the cottage and everyone chip in with their share of the cost?

Your meals need not be elaborate affairs. As long as there are plenty of basic things like bread and cheese, salad and fruit, wine and coffee, everyone is usually happy to see to themselves for breakfast and lunch, with one or two being responsible for producing a simple evening meal.

Simplicity is the key.

No-one wants to spend the best part of the day in the kitchen — unless cooking is their passion, of course. In which case, enjoy!

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Something else you might want to discuss beforehand is whether you want to use the retreat as a quiet place, conducive to writing, where you can each get on quietly with your WIP uninterrupted, or would you like to also have some structured writing time.

Starting the day with a little light physical exercise, like a short walk or such, followed by a timed writing exercise or two can be useful to wake up the body and the writing muscles. Similarly, it is important to incorporate short breaks in the day to stretch out the muscles, get some fresh air and refresh yourselves.

After eating the evening meal, it can be pleasant to spend time relaxing together for a while, perhaps watching a film, playing music, or just sitting chatting over a glass of wine.

This might also be a time you would enjoy reading out some of your day’s writing to one another and getting some feedback.

Set goals.

At the planning stage, it is good to discuss together what each member of the party hopes to achieve. Whether some of you want to set yourselves a daily word count, or a weekly one, whether the aim is to edit a certain number of pages, poems or chapters, the best way to achieve the maximum benefit from your retreat is to set clear goals and encourage one another to work towards them.

Respect one another’s space.

Respect the silence.

Respect each other’s writing.

At the end of your week or weekend together, celebrate!

Discuss what worked and what didn’t, what helped and what hindered, and plan your next retreat.

~~~

What about turning your annual vacation into a personal writer’s retreat?

If your friend or your spouse likes fishing, skiing, white water rafting and you don’t, why not book a log cabin where he or she can do their thing and you can write, sharing a meal together in the evening, a glass of wine by the fire or in the evening sun, sharing the stories of the day.

My husband and I do this from time to time, where he pursues his interests during the day while I enjoy some quiet writing time and we share the evenings together. It works.

~~~

I would love to hear your suggestions.

What have you tried?

Have you enjoyed the luxury of a Writers’ Retreat?

~~~

How to Plan a Writers’ Retreat

Ever thought about planning your very own Writers’ Retreat?

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I suspect most authors dream of a quiet cottage somewhere away from the day-to-day routine, somewhere to concentrate on getting that first draft finished, or that tricky edit done, a place conducive to writing with as few distractions as possible.

The ones you see advertised in writing magazines always look terrific, but are often expensive. Then there’s the uncomfortable feeling that you won’t know anyone. What if you have to share a room? What if there are people there that you just don’t gel with? What if not everyone is serious about getting on with writing and they see the week as an excuse to party?

So many reasons to never get around to indulging in the luxury of a writers’ retreat.

But what if you were the organiser? You, or your friends? Many of these doubts and worries would be alleviated. You could choose the location, the price, and the company. You could set the tone.

For the past few years, that is exactly what my writing friends and I have done.

So, how do we go about it?

Perhaps the first decision has to be who to go with. That was an easy one for us because we had already formed a small Writers’ Club, PenPals. We are friends who got to know one another through our love of writing, and, although there are some ten or so of us, nominally, there are three of us who meet regularly, so three of us who have gone away together the last few years. The first time, there were four of us, but we haven’t managed more than that at any one retreat. We have found three or four to work well, though I can imagine six or eight would still be manageable, if you found a large enough cottage.

The beauty of the smaller number is privacy.

When we went away in March, this year, the cottage was large enough that we could have a room each, great if someone snores! And great for being able to write without distraction.

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The second decision is where to go.

This is not difficult. There are always going to be a few deciding factors: price; availability, and suitability among the important ones.

Let’s deal with suitability first.

Suitability might include size. How many of you are committed to the venture? Are you willing to share two to a room? These factors will help determine the size of cottage you need.

Suitability might also include location. How far are you willing to travel? Is there an obvious halfway point between your various homes? Is there a pleasant area nearby, where there are holiday cottages for rent? Is the cottage somewhere suitably quiet? Renting one in a holiday park may not be conducive to quiet reflection and peaceful writing.

Next, you might consider price.

How much will your share of the rental, the petrol and the food be? How much are you each willing to pay? If you have a figure in mind, it might help you narrow down any options.

Obviously, the price will vary depending on the size of the cottage, but it will also vary depending on when you choose to go. Most holiday cottages are cheaper ‘off-season’ when the demand for them is lower.

Armed with information like that, you can then go on-line to look for your retreat.

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This last time, in March, we went a little further afield than usual, paid a little more than usual and had a bigger cottage. The main reason was because one of our members was writing a book set in that particular area and we wanted to support her in exploring it. We didn’t regret the decision to go there. It was a fabulous cottage in a stunning location, here in Scotland on a hill overlooking Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle.

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Okay! So let’s say you have chosen your company, your location, your price. You’ve booked your cottage and you’re ready to go.

What now?

How do you turn a few friends holidaying together in a cottage into a Writers’ Retreat?

In my next post, we will discuss what to do to get the maximum benefit from your inspirational break.

~~~

Christine Campbell Fascinating I Am

Usually, I try not to make WriteWhereYouAre all about me, by reblogging interesting articles from others’ blogs, or writing about things other than my books. Occasionally I share one of my poems or a poem or short story someone else has written. All in an attempt to interest and entertain you.

As part of the promotion of my new novel, Searching for Summer, I have the privilege of writing some guest posts for other bloggers, being interviewed by some others, and having my book reviewed by yet others, so please bear with me over the next few weeks as I share these various posts here on my own blog.

I shall try to intersperse these promotional posts with posts about other things and other people, but I am kinda hoping you’ll forgive me for being a wee bittie excited about my new book and wanting to talk about it more than a wee bittie!

Author and blogger, Anna Stenhouse, invited me to write a piece for her blog, Novels Now. Her theme for guest pieces is ‘Fascinating I am,’ and she invited me to share five fascinating facts about myself. Well, I wrinkled my brow, scratched my head, and hummed and hawed, and came up with five facts about myself. Whether they fascinate is another matter, which I shall leave up to your judgement. I hope you at least find them interesting.

Novels Now

Christine Campbell Christine Campbell

Christine Campbell, novelist, Women’s Contemporary fiction is the first Fascinating I Am subject of 2015. welcome to Novels Now, Christine.

First of all, I have to say, “What a heading to live up to!” I doubt if ‘fascinating’ is an adjective often used of me — but I like it!

Fascinating Fact One:

I don’t have a favourite colour, book, song, child or grandchild.

Just as I love different colours for different reasons because they are all different, so it is with books, songs, my children, and my grandchildren. I think it is amazing how love stretches and deepens. When stretched, it doesn’t get thinner so it can go further. It just grows and makes it possible to love more.

Fascinating Fact Two:

When I was approaching forty, I decided I’d like to trace my birth father. The only thing I knew about him was his name…

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#5 — Food in Fiction

We’ve been looking at how Food is used in Fiction. The places where your characters eat and drink can also be helpful in telling your story.

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Photo taken in the Vintage Tearoom of The Caledonian Bicycle Company

In my second novel, Making It Home, two of the main characters meet regularly in a coffee shop. A coffee shop or tearoom is a neutral location. No-one has to act as hostess. No-one has to assume responsibility for the business of getting fed and watered. So it is a useful setting for a writer to use. It allows dialogue to flow as easily as tea or coffee from the pot, or with as many splutters and stutters as a malfunctioning coffee machine. That’s up to the writer and what he or she wishes to accomplish in the scene.


THE book cover

In Making It Home, Kate and Phyllis meet for afternoon tea, and in this short excerpt I haven’t woven in many references to the food and drink, more using the setting to allow space for the characters to get to know one another and the reader to listen in and get to know them too. The reference to the strawberry tarts, is used to show how Phyllis diverts attention from herself, afraid perhaps of revealing too much about her unusual lifestyle.

~~~

“So tell me about yourself,” Phyllis demanded after they’d bought their coffee and cakes and were settled at a small round table in Harrison’s Coffee Shop.
The surroundings suited Phyllis. Kate had never really paid much attention to the place before. It was just somewhere to have a break and refreshment. Now, she noticed that it was quite elegantly furnished: dark wooden tables, comfortably padded chairs. It all had an air of old-fashioned elegance: the perfect setting for such a delightfully old-fashioned lady.
“You’re married.” Phyllis nodded in the direction of Kate’s wedding ring. “Any children?”
“Two. A girl and a boy.”
“Ages?”
“Vicky’s thirty-four. Paul, thirty-two.”
“You must have been a very young mum.”
“I was.” Kate blushed. “Sweet sixteen… and wish I’d only been kissed!”
“Pregnant when you married then?”
Kate was a little taken aback by the older woman’s directness. Often that generation were a little bashful about such topics. Her own mum certainly was. In fact, she never quite recovered from the shame of Kate’s disgrace. She had made a great point of telling everybody that Vicky was a honeymoon baby. ‘Six weeks premature,’ she’d said. Pretty hard to be convincing though, when Vicky was a bouncing seven-and-a-half pounder!
“’Fraid so,” she admitted.
“And no help for it in those days?”
“Absolutely not. We ‘Had To Get Married’. No other choice. My dad made that very clear. Anyway,” Kate laughed a little wryly. “I wanted to get married. Thought it was really romantic. Getting married, having babies. It’s what I’d always wanted. Or at least, I thought it was.”
“The romance wore off then?”
“Quickly. Once I had two toddlers and a husband who didn’t have a clue what to do with kids. I’m afraid Dan didn’t have much time for them until they could watch the football. Although, to his credit, he was a good provider. Worked hard. ‘Department of Trade and Industry’. He’s quite high up in it now and very well respected, as far as I can tell. Not that he talks about his work. Just that my neighbour’s husband works in the same department. Under Dan, actually. He seems to think the world of him. Says he’s a great manager.” She shrugged. “He’s beginning to get tired though. I think they’ve worn him down. He’d love to get out.”
“Any chance?”
“Oh heavens! I hope not. I couldn’t be doing with him underfoot all the time.”
“He’d surely get something else though?”
“Perhaps.” Kate shuddered.“Anyway, what about you?”
“Oh you don’t want to hear about me.” Phyllis held out the delicate china plate of cakes. “Here! Why don’t you try one of these strawberry tarts? They really are delicious.”

~~~

And in this next excerpt, the tea and the tea tray help to show a scene of family domesticity. No longer a neutral location, Kate is in her own kitchen with her son, a more intimate setting, allowing us to see another, more intimate, side to her character. There are things you may not mind talking about to an acquaintance in a coffee shop, and there are other, more personal things you would only feel comfortable sharing with family or close friends in the safe environment of your own kitchen.

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“You mean you’ve been slipping out of the house, every Saturday for weeks, without telling him where you’re going?”
Kate nodded. “Well, only one so far.”
“Do you think that’s wise, Mum? I mean… what if he thinks you’ve got a fancy man or something?”
She laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous, Paul. Why on earth would he think that?”
“Well, isn’t that what happened to his Dad when he was a wee boy? Did his Mum not run off with someone or something?”
“Yes, but his Mum was a floosie.”
“A what?” Paul hooted.
“Shh! He’ll come through to see what’s keeping his cup of tea.”
“Well, really Mum! A ‘floosie’! Where on earth did you come up with that?”
“Oh, you know what I mean. I don’t know what the current slang is for a loose woman.”
Paul hooted again.
“She fell in love with all things American during the war, particularly, all ‘things’ in uniform. His father wasn’t even sure that Dan was his kid. Then she upped and left him to bring him up on his own. I don’t think they had much of a homelife.”
“Probably why he’s such a miserable sod now.”
“Paul!”
“Well he is. And I do know what the current slang is for that. But, in deference to your feelings…”
“Thank you.”
“So, where does he think you go every Saturday?”
“Shopping, I suppose. He doesn’t ask, so I don’t tell him.”
Paul picked up the tea-tray and started towards the kitchen door. “Fair enough. If he’s not interested enough to ask. It would serve him right if you did have a fancy man. Hey!” He spun round to look carefully at her. “You don’t, do you?”
“Of course I don’t! And watch that tea, you’re going to spill it!”

~~~

You can find Making It Home, internationally, on Amazon

FREE for three days, from Tuesday, November 4th till Thursday, November 6th

~~~

Excuse Me! Do I Know You?

IMG_1697 Sketch courtesy of Michelle Campbell

Have you ever had that experience where someone starts chatting to you as though they are your best friend and you really are not that sure where and when you met them? In fact, you’re not that sure you ever did meet them.

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You listen politely for a while

Mind whirring behind your smile

Do I know you, friend or foe?

Can I trust you? I don’t know

You seem to know me very well

I’m getting old now, you can tell

My memory is failing,

My eyesight too

But if you know me that well

I’d surely know you too.

~~~

The definition of a friend is ‘A person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection and loyalty.’

With that in mind, I was giving some thought to our Facebook ‘Friends’, and those we think of as ‘friends’ in other social media circles. How well do we know them? Do we like them? Regard them with affection and loyalty? Now, that’s a hard one, isn’t it?

I feel I have made loads of new friends all over the world. Some of them I do regard with great affection, I really like them and I do actually feel loyalty towards them. But I could hardly say I ‘know’ them, could I?

I’ve never met them. They’ve never met me.

How honestly do we portray ourselves?

Did you know I can be incredibly irritating? I’m sometimes miserable as sin? I can get very tetchy when irritated myself?

Of course you didn’t know that. Why on earth would I tell you things like that? I want you to like me, for goodness sake.

So, why would we assume we ‘know’ our cyber ‘friends’?

Have you ever accidentally deeply offended someone you think of as a friend? Made that assumption: thought you knew them? Their blog posts and comments seemed to reveal their personality so clearly that you honestly thought you knew them and you said something, gave an honest opinion and the other party was hurt and offended. You wish you could take it back. Wish you’d smiled and said nothing. Kept your opinions to yourself.

The simple thing is to shrug and say, ‘Ah well, you have to be thick-skinned in this business. It isn’t my fault he/she is too sensitive.’ But, that’s not the way of friendship, is it? Remember? Loyalty, liking, affection? Where do they come in?

If we really want our cyber friends to be real friends, we must treat them with respect and affection as far as we are able, given the unreal circumstances. We can try to get to know them, warts and all. We can let them get to know the real us, warts and all. And we can try to be understanding and treat them with care and sensitivity. Otherwise, we shall lose them, lose their friendship, and, who knows, perhaps they could have become ‘real’ friends somewhere along the online.

~~~

Reality Check!

 Followers of this blog may have noticed in my post, ‘I look from my window…’, on March 24th, I made the grandiose claim: ‘We’re planning to go to America, California to be precise, but visiting St Louis and New York too. We’ve been to the States before, 2005, nearly eight years ago….

Well…on what parallel planet was I? What was I thinking? ‘…nearly eight years ago…’ may as well be a century. Things have changed: circumstances. My circumstances. I had poor health back then and I managed. We had a great time and were able to do most of what we planned and hoped to do. But in those intervening eight years, my health problems have increased. Don’t worry; I’m not going to bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, I can no longer contemplate such a trip. It is just not feasible for me.

The reality check came in the form of a week-long bad reaction to one tiny outing to a familiar place where I lost my spatial awareness and had a fall—stopped from being more serious by the corner of a nearby, friendly wall. It was ‘Ouch!’ but not ‘OUCH!’

I cannot be in airports, I cannot endure a long-haul flight, I cannot be in a hot climate—I just cannot. Not without paying a heavy price. Let’s face it, who wants to spend the first week or more of their visit to California in bed, recovering from getting there? And again, in St Louis, and again in New York?

This reality check came as no surprise to my husband.

By the way, slightly off topic, my ‘better half’ is not terribly happy that I have been blogging about his exploits in my ‘John o’Groats to Land’s End’ pages. He feels I’ve placed him in a goldfish bowl, open to the scrutiny of all and sundry, which I have and for which I apologise. However, I have started so he has recognised that I’m bound to finish…

In deference to his sensibility, I thought it might help if I didn’t talk about him by name too often, hence the clichéd ‘other half’ at the beginning of this paragraph. There are lots of ways of referring to him, all of them probably clichés, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I try some of them out from time to time while searching for an original, and deliciously witty, alternative.

As I was saying, this reality check came as no surprise to ‘him indoors’. He had been quietly worrying about the proposed trip, he having a much firmer grasp on reality. If he’s in a goldfish bowl, I am the original goldfish. ‘His nibs’ often tells me so. I have the memory of a goldfish. When I’m well, I don’t believe I’ll ever be ill again. I think I can do all the ‘normal’ things. It always comes as a surprise—a shock, even—when I can’t. My ‘other half’ knew I couldn’t do the trip I was planning, but, with his usual good insight, allowed me to come to that conclusion myself. It’s always the better way: I don’t really like to be ‘told’.

So, reality check—tick!

Dealing with disappointment—working on!

One of the ways I’m dealing with it is by continuing with the ‘John o’G…’ pages. I know it’s dwelling on the past, but I reckon that’s okay. Isn’t that why we make memories? So that we can remember them, share them, relive them? I have wonderful memories of that adventure. I felt so proud of ‘Big G’—as my granddaughter calls him. And I felt so proud of myself! We achieved something we hardly believed possible for us, which is one of the main reasons we didn’t tell anyone that was our plan before we were well underway with it—and it’s the main reason we didn’t seek sponsorship for one of the very worthy charities we sponsor. Somehow, that would have felt like tempting ‘time and unforeseen occurrence’ to befall.

Today, before adding  ‘Day 4’ of the trip, I want to tell you about ‘Embo’ because, not only is it where we were based for those first three days of the trip, it is also where we have spent time with our family and friends, some years in as many as seven or eight caravans, every year for the past twenty years or so.

 

 

Welcome!

It’s good you could visit.

I’m new to blogging, so I do hope you’ll bear with me while I learn.

My aim is to fill the pages with interesting things about writing, reading, crafting, people and life…but it’ll take a while, so do look back from time to time to see how I’m doing.

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